MONO Skincare prioritises Japan and Europe markets amid expansion hurdles

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

The water-soluble pastilles contain highly concentrated active ingredients, and are meant to be dissolved in a refillable bottle before use. ©MONO Skincare
The water-soluble pastilles contain highly concentrated active ingredients, and are meant to be dissolved in a refillable bottle before use. ©MONO Skincare

Related tags Hong kong waterless solid beauty Sustainability

Waterless beauty brand MONO Skincare is making inroads into Japan after inking a distribution deal, while its expansion in Europe is supported by investors as well as a partnership with Sephora.

Launched in 2022 after nearly two years of R&D, MONO Skincare​’s water-soluble pastilles contain highly concentrated active ingredients and are meant to diluted in water.

Its product ranges span skin care and body care, including cleanser, toner, face moisturiser, night serum, makeup remover, and deodorant.

“We have talked to many different concept stores, department stores, and big chains like Sephora. Out of 100 people, I would say 80 people are automatically asking for samples. They are intrigued by the format, and they want to know more because they think it can be really impactful for the beauty industry and the way we consume cosmetics,” ​Laurie Mias, founder and CEO of MONO Skincare, told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​.

The brand currently stocks at Kapok stores in Hong Kong, and is in “advanced conversation with Sephora”.

Its products are also sold through its website, where its shipping to countries including Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

“We have signed a distribution deal with a Japanese partner, and we are in talks to bring the brand to Australia and South Korea. These markets are very savvy about innovations.

“Our formulations are updated regularly, so it’s important to work with partners that have the capacity to adapt, such as registering with local regulatory authorities, and that are able to distribute the products according to the specificity of the market,” ​Mias revealed.

The firm also lists the European market as a key focus.

“In the UK, we are already selling in Sephora. We operate directly in Europe as our investors, who are based in France, have developed a network through other beauty brands in the past. We also have an agreement with Sephora for the EU region from 2024.”

Yet, MONO Skincare’s expansion had not been without hiccups. For instance, its collaboration with Sephora Singapore has been on hold since last year.

“One of the challenges with entering new markets is time and resource management because we are a small team. For now, we are dedicating more time to our priority markets such as France, be it for sales, marketing, production or public relations.

“While response has been positive, with 40% of online customers returning every six months, it’s a long road to raise awareness of our brand — we’d need to spend a lot on marketing and brand activations, so we are taking it step by step.”

Not just a 'fun invention'

Cosmetics typically consist of up to 80% or 90% of water, leading to increasing demand for alternative product formats that use less of this precious resource.

“It’s very limiting when you remove water from a skin care product because it’s one of the best solvents. You can’t just put actives on your face; it’d be too harsh. I came across cleaning products in the tablet format, and that inspired me to come up with a truly revolutionary product for the beauty industry,” ​Mias shared.

MONO Skincare’s pastilles are said to last about four months with daily usage and can be preserved for up to 12 months.

“When you finish using a bottle, wash it with hot water to reuse. You can simply purchase the refills, which come in a bottle made of recyclable glass and aluminium. People are desperately looking for things that are better for the planet. When they buy a product that is good for the environment, they feel like they did something virtuous.

“Thus, I believe the trend will last. But for a brand to thrive, its inventions cannot just be a gimmick. People buy skin care for the efficacy. For them to make a radical switch, the new format has to deliver more, if not equivalent, benefits [than existing ones]. In fact, we need to show that there is no compromise in scientific evidence and quality.”

MONO Skincare partners with a pharmacist who has been developing cosmetics for more than 25 years, and whose laboratory claims to be the first vegan-certified one in Europe.

The firm has been working on an emulsifier that dissolves in room-temperature water to create a texture similar to regular products. 

“The texture you get in cosmetics comes from polyacrylic acid derived from fossil fuels, which are non-renewable. Through continuous R&D, we found a way to produce a pleasant texture, and still keep the product 100% natural and environmentally friendly.”

It is looking to launch the newly formulated product in its Asian markets by the end of this year, and European markets few months after.

Besides ingredients, MONO Skincare is constantly seeking improvement for its packaging. For example, a new home compostable bottle for the refills is in the works.

“It’s taking quite a long time for us to switch from glass to something else as the bottle needs to be stable enough to keep the refills dry for an extended period. We are testing new materials every month, and we are almost there.”

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